Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Halloween Traditions + Skeleton Wreath Tutorial

Can you believe Halloween is only a week away?

Are you a Halloween loving ghoul? or a I'm just her for the candy dandy?
I'm going to be real with you halloween is not my favorite holiday - I am not a dress up for Halloween girl - I've never really been in to it - but I LOVE celebrating and making magical fun for my kids. One of my biggest role model parents is my friend Jen, when we met  I did not have children yet, and she had 2 beautiful daughters who were 4 and 2, and she celebrated everything! I mean, decorations, fun food, perfect costumes, and she loved every minute of it - she did all those things for her and her children, and only for them - not because she felt she had to or was trying to be pintrest perfect - but because she loved it. I was in awe of it, but never thought I would be that kind of a mom - then again I was working 45-70 hours a week when I became a mom, so I'm sure that had something to do with it). Anyway I loved Jen's house, she made everyone feel welcome, she made everything fun, she really is just one of those incredible women you need in your life. I wanted my house to feel like Jen's house, like my house growing up, where everyone was welcome and there was always something fun happening.

I remember my first Halloween as a mom, I bought the perfect costume (which all three of my babes have worn), and we did pumpkins and handed out candy, which was just enough for me. Then one year I hung up a little banner for some random holiday I bought at Target, and my oldest who was about 18 months said "oohhh pretty, mommy, I love your decorations" and that right there turned me into a crazy decorating lady! For some reason my kids love holiday decorations - so I decorate for all the holidays. This year we added this awesome dude, inspired by Anna McFarland of Annaistheworst. Isn't he amazing?!?! Bonus he was so easy to make.

I bought the skeleton at Michaels for like $12, the flowers were around $20 from Michaels, and $4 from DollarTree. I used a piece of cardboard from a shipping box, and cut it to the desired size. I tied the skeleton on with some bakers twine and hot glued the holes closed.

Then I popped the flowers off the stems & cut the little plastic part off the back so they would be almost flat. I laid out the flowers - it took a few layouts to find the look I was going for.
Then I just started hot gluing the flowers on. I also added some leaves to fill in the background.
 This is such a fun and easy craft because there's no wrong way to do it - you just keep adding stuff until it feels right! I can't tell you how many people have come to my door asking about this guy, do yourself a favor and make a skelly wreath ASAP.

Now that the decor is complete we are ready to play. One thing I love to do for different holidays and seasons is read books that coordinate. We have a decent stash of holiday books, but I always hit up the library to get more so we can read them all month leading up to the holiday - in this case halloween.

A few of our favorites are: Happy Halloween Curious GeorgeRoom on the BroomWhere is Baby's Pumpkin,  Duck & Goose Honk! Quack! Boo!, Goblin Moon, How to Scare a Ghost, Monster Trucks, Skelly's Halloween, Dino-Halloween, B is for Boo, Pick a Pumpkin, to name a few!

Time to Dress up! Other than the first year or two I let my kids choose their costumes. My oldest has been 1. Peacock, 2. Shark, 3. Tiger, 4. Dinosaur, 5. Astronaut, 6. Police Officer, 7, Darth Vader, and this year he is too cool for a real costume, so he will be a football player.
My daughter has been 1. Peacock, 2. Ruth Bader Ginsberg (yup Attorney mom here - this was the only year we did a family costume - I was my hero & first woman on the Supreme Court Sandra Day O'Conner, she was RBG, my son was a police officer, and husband was a prisoner - it was so fun!) 3. Fox, and this year she is going as a kitty.
Baby is celebrating his second halloween, he was a peacock for his first, and will be a shark this year. Gotta get my moneys worth out of those costumes 😉.

As for events, we will attend our Church's Trunk or Treat Halloween Party,  I'll volunteer for my second grader's class party, and attend my preschooler's halloween program (which I cannot wait for, her school has the cutest programs & and she's been practicing her songs all month). Then we will do a simple trick or treat around the neighborhood. One of my beloved childhood memories was trick or treating to my own house. My mom always had something special for us when we knocked on our own door. My kids will trick or treat to our house and will get a new book and a special treat. Here's what they are getting this year.
Big Book of Stars & Planets, Deep in the Ocean, Nibbles, Kinder Eggs
Food! If you know me, you know I love food! The bigs will both have school on Halloween, so they will get a special lunch of Spider Sandwiches, pumpkin oranges, hard boiled egg ghosts, and Trader Joe's ghost chips. For dinner we usually do mummy dogs - we wrap pizza dough around a chicken sausage to make it look like a mummy. I do the classic halloween mars mix for "normal" trick or treaters, and then I have special treats for our friends (pirate's booty for friends and kinder eggs for our besties).
Once they get all their candy we go through it, make sure everything is safe, let them choose a handful of things they don't have to share, and then everything good goes in a communal container in the pantry. The things we don't like get dropped off at our dentist's buy back event. How you handle treats is a totally personal decision, and we allow a fair amount of treats in our house.

However you choose to celebrate I hope you have the best Halloween yet! Make it Magical in your own way! Happy Halloween friends!

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Tuesday, October 15, 2019

The Perfect Family Photos - A How To Guide

It's that time of year again, where the leaves start turning, and families run out in droves to capture the perfect family photos. Have you had your family photos done yet? Or are you still spending hours searching for the perfect outfits - not too matchy-matchy, not too weird, not too plain, not too much like last year....well my friends, if you are in the former category, congratulations! If you are in the later, congratulations, you're in the right place, I'm here to help.

I don't know about you, but I always stress about family photos. I think it has to do with how few family photos my family did when I was growing up,  that I'm obsessed with getting them every year. Then since they are going on my wall, and in my photo books, and on my Christmas cards, I want them to be just right. I always tell my husband "photos are my love language" to which he responds "that's not a thing" and I respond, "it is to me", so he ignores my crazy, and smiles on cue. 

So how do you have a stress free photo shoot, and photos you love?

1. Photographer, Photographer, Photographer 

Find a photographer you love, and if possible have the same person take your photos every year. Building a relationship with a photographer is so helpful, not only does it help you as the planner, but it helps your children feel more comfortable working with someone they know.  My kids love our photographer, she is amazing with them. Their favorite thing is that she brings a treasure box with her to photo shoots. Before the shoot she pulls out the treasure box and gives them a three second peek to get them excited about what they might earn. Whenever they start acting crazy she just says "how many items from the treasure box do you think you'll get?" and already, my 7 and 3 year olds know to step in line (for the record they each got 5 things this year! they were rockstars). She is silly, and fun, and knows how to make everyone comfortable in front of the camera - if you live in the Boise area, check out Rebecca of Merrakai Photography, she is a dream. 

If you don't have a photographer yet, scroll through your local Instagram, Facebook, and Blogs to see who they use and recommend - search their social media, their sites, find a photographer who fits you. It is so important to find a photographer who matches your style. I remember when we were looking for a wedding photographer and everyone swore by this one photographer, I looked him up and his photos were racy - I mean racy, and I was like hmm I don't think that's my vibe. But I called him anyway, because everyone said he was the best. I told him what I was looking for - dude was a total jerk to me, because that wasn't his style, there was no need for his attitude, but he had his style and I had mine, and we were not right to work together. Then I restarted my search, and found a photographer who's work I loved. I seriously just went down the line saying - yes, yes, yes, I want all of these photos but for me. I loved pretty much every photograph on her entire site. She was perfect for us and I am so glad I found someone who fit my style instead of "the best one", because you know what, she was the best one for me. 

2. Share Your Vision 

Once you find a photographer you love, share your vision with them. Do you want perfectly posed photos in a studio, more candid shots in your home, big city streets, or wide open spaces? Let your photographer know what you want. If you have a location you love let them know and they can scout for the best time of day to get the right lighting. Not sure where you want, photographers are great at knowing all the right spots to match your vision.

Last summer when I had our third child, I opted for an in home lifestyle session, more candid, less structured, and it was so perfect. I love having photos of each kid in their rooms, in their element, doing normal things they do every day. This year I went back to my signature outdoor photos, I just love golden hour photos in a beautiful natural setting. Know what you love and make it happen. If you don't have a vision search family photo shoots until you find something you love and ask your photographer to help you make it happen.

3. Plan Your Outfits

I think planning your outfits is the most stressful part of photo sessions, okay second most stressful after wondering if your family will cooperate. When I start planning outfits I try to find one thing I absolutely love and plan around that item. Usually, that means planning around my daughter, because little girl clothes are just the cutest.  I also stick to the rule of one bold print, one light print, and the rest in complimentary solids. Too many patterns is just too busy, while too many of the same shade of solid is just so boring. This two pattern ratio is like magic! 

This year, I loved a lot of things for both my daughter and myself, so I ordered, tried on, tired to coordinate, and went through a few rounds before I found my ah ha piece. My original vision was my daughter in a plum dress - well the dress I wanted sold out lightning fast, and I couldn't find anything else in that color I loved. So I started over, and settled on this beautiful Mini Boden Pinafore dress, which I paired with a Mustard Pie top we already owned, and shoes we already owned - we settled on her Mon Petite Saddle Oxfords.

From there I found and fell in love with a Rachel Parcell Dress for myself. And things just fell into place from there. I went with J Crew CrewCuts for my 7 year old son, and found the perfect Rylee + Cru top for my 1 year old son, which I paired with a Mini Boden Sweater, and his Freshly Picked Cedar Oxfords. My poor husband is always last in line for clothes, which is fine with him. Here is my layout as I was still deciding which sweater for him.

I find it very helpful to lay things out together to see how they look. I will move things around and make sure I like the look of each thing in different combinations, I lay out shoes, accessories, everything we will use. This is another place a good photographer comes in handy. I had another dress I like equally for myself, so I sent Rebecca the photos asking her opinion, she has a good eye and pointed out that even though the other dress was amazing - it was a show stealer, and wouldn't fit my vision. Likewise I sent her one of the dresses I chose for my daughter since I wasn't sure how it would photograph, as well as a few different shoe options for myself. Between my girlfriends and Rebecca (who is one of my girlfriends) we got the outfits down.  Here were my final two combos we narrowed it down to. 

In the end we opted for the light blue sweater because it is just so different from what he normally wears, and the color not only looked fantastic on him, but really made all of our eyes pop.  

Hair and Makeup: I like to look like me, just a more polished version of me, so I wear a little thicker eyeliner, heavier than usual mascara, and blush, but still true to my usual self. I know some people get their hair and makeup done for photos and if that's your style, awesome, you do you. If not, make sure you give yourself plenty of time to get ready so you feel beautiful and confident. (having your kids do quiet time for an hour is a great way to get ready)

I know every budget is different, and I firmly believe that having clothing that makes you feel confident, and items you want to see long term is far more important than having new things. Find things you love either in store or in your closet, things that make you feel confident, mix it up with different accessories, or a jacket, make what you have look new. I don't buy all new clothes for family photos, but I do like to get a few new things for family pictures each year. This year everyone got something new, partially because I found what I loved, and partially because we needed some new things. Find what works for you, and ask your friends and photographer for their input as well.

4. Managing The Chaos 

Children are unpredictable! In order to get the best photos possible I plan rest time so that it will end about an hour before we need to leave for the shoot. On the weekends and non-school days all of my children have a 30-60 minute rest time. During rest time they can quietly play, read, or nap in their rooms. Giving them this down time really improves everyone's attitude, and gives mom a chance to get ready. Once rest time is over, everyone gets a hardy snack before we get dressed. This way we avoid the tired hangry people. For this shoot, I wanted to capture our Sunday Charcuterie tradition, so I made a charcuterie board for the end of the shoot - the kids were so excited! I also bribed them with Kinder Eggs, which I placed on the center console of the car when we got to the location, with a big flourish to keep them excited about earning them. 

Once we get to the shoot I try to live by the "worry about yourself" mantra, and let the photographer wrangle the littles - unless I'm asked to direct them, or need to chase down the baby. At this point, I've set myself up as well as I can, so I just have to let it be. Having this mentality not only relieves stress, but it relaxes your face so you look your best! 

I also try to have as much fun as possible with my family during the shoot - joke around, play with your kids, this gets everyone in a good mood, and gets those bright eyed, genuine smiles that make your heart melt. Happiness always photographs well!

In summary, to manage the chaos as best you can: 1. Rest time; 2. Feed the children; 3. Bribe the children & spouse if necessary; 4. Make it fun.

5. Manage Expectations

I'm going to be honest here, I might not always be the best at this - but I really try to keep it in check. One of my big ideas this year was a little picnic to commemorate our Sunday Charcuterie tradition. Dr. Nick took one look at it and said "could your expectations be any higher?" so I checked myself, and continued to put the board together for our little picnic. It's such a special memory to me that it was worth the extra work transporting and setting it all up. 

Don't forget to manage your family's expectations. I am very honest with my kids. They know mom loves family pictures, they know the faster they cooperate the faster it is over. So on the way to the shoot, I remind them, we are paying a lot of money for our family pictures; however you look - the pictures are still going on the wall, in books, and on Christmas cards; the faster we smile and and hit the mark, the faster we are finished; and I always let them know in advance what their reward will be.  This year my oldest asked for kinder eggs, and I was thrilled to get off so easy! Obviously, this doesn't work as well for younger kids, but the younger ones follow the lead of the bigs, so if the bigs are happy, the littles will likely be happy too! 

6. Be Prepared

I double check everyone before we go out the door: shoe check; teeth check; hair check, clothing check... I also bring a tote bag with me that has all the little things we might need: comb, brush, spray bottle, chapstick,  baby wipes, lint roller, makeup bag (mascara, lip stick & gloss, blush, powder, q-tips for clean ups) extra shoes & bows -  just incase I change my mind; waters for everyone, and tictacs! I can't believe I haven't mentioned tictacs! Tictacs are my secret weapon - they make everyone happy and are zero mess! I know it sounds a bit "extra" but you never know when you will need these things. I'd rather have a bag I don't need, than be in the middle of a field wishing for a tissue.

7. Final Thoughts

Do your prep work! Prep your outfits, location, attitudes, and your bribes. 
Once you get to the location, your job is done. 
Relax, have fun, and smile pretty.